Mexico: Drug Gangs Fight Back


February 10, 2008: The Army had a big week in its war on the cartelistas (drug gangs). The army conducted an operation in Tamaulipas state that led to the capture of five men and a large weapons cache. The cache was found on a ranch and included plastic explosive, hand grenades, bullet-proof protective vests, 80 sets of military uniforms, 89 rifles and 83,000 rounds of ammunition. The army also found nine tons of marijuana on the ranch and several vehicles, one equipped with bullet-proof glass. The troops found what amounts to a supply dump for a company-sized unit capable of launching limited mobile operations. A police station in a small town would be quickly overrun by a force of this size and this well-armed.

February 9, 2008: A Mexican Army senior officer commanding troops in Baja California state confirmed that the drug cartels are trying to bribe Mexican soldiers. The officer said that drug gang members are trying buy-off the military so they can continue shipping drugs. Soldiers reported that they are offered money, drugs, and prostitutes. The government raised military pay in early 2007, in part to reward integrity in the armed services. The military has reported that it has arrested a number of gang members who had city and state police radios. That was another indicator that the gangs had corrupted local police forces. The army is now running several police departments in Baja California.

February 6, 2008: President Felipe Calderon said that the government will eventually reduce the military's role in the war on drug cartels. The key is reform of police forces so that the participation of the army in the fight against crime will become less and less necessary. The president was responding to increasing international criticism of his administrations reliance on the Army in its battle with heavily armed drug gangs. The UN (U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights) has criticized Calderon's use of the military, arguing that the use of the military increases the possibility of human rights violations.

February 4, 2008: Farmers are once again complaining about corn prices. In late January several thousand farmers and demonstrators marched in Mexico City. The farmers and their supporters want the Mexican government to "renegotiate NAFTA" to protect farm crop prices in Mexico. Why is this a problem? Corn prices and NAFTA were two key political issues raised Sub-Commandante Marcos in the 1994 Zapatista rebellion.

February 2, 2008: The media have produced their own death toll for "drug cartel related violence" in 2007. That figure is 2795 deaths.

February 1, 2008: U.S. commanders in Ft Bliss put the Mexican city of Juarez off limits to American troops. The "off limits" designation is only "for a short term." Rising violence is the reason. In January 2008 Juarez had 30 murders. Juarez is across the border from El Paso, Texas, where Ft Bliss is located.

January 23, 2008: There has been an upsurge of drug-related violence in Mexico City. Authorities said one of the big indicators was the arrest of 11 members of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico City on January 22. The gang members are suspected of attempting to organize a "high-level assassination" in Mexico City. The house where the gang members were captured were stocked with grenades, automatic rifles, and bullet-proof vests. Authorities described the group as a "hit team." However, their equipment also suggests the hit team had some of the capabilities of a small military-type special operations force. Mexico City has also increased the number of police operating at its international airport in order to stop drug trafficking through that facility.

January 15, 2008: The army claims that an anti-Army demonstration in the town of Culiacan (November 2007) was staged by drug cartels. The army asserts that the Sinaloa drug cartel paid demonstrators from $50 to $200 to participate in the demonstration. Remember, this is an allegation by the Mexican Army. But could the cartelistas buy demonstrators? Why not. A media campaign (information warfare) might slow down the army. From the cartel leaders' perspective, it's worth a try.

January 10, 2008: Authorities said that they plan to begin inspecting all private airplane flights from Central and South America. The inspections will be conducted by special counter-drug enforcement teams.

January 8, 2008: The government reported that it had arrested 10 people involved in a January 7 shootout in the town of Rio Bravo. Three of the suspects are described as U.S. residents.




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